The following is a movie review “Rocketman” by Marc Primo Pulisci.
Release date: 31 May 2019 (USA)
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Production Companies: New Republic Pictures, Marv Films, Rocket Pictures
Producers: Adam Bohling, David Furnish, David Reid, Matthew Vaughn
After the success of such recent rock biopics Bohemian Rhapsody and The Dirt comes another welcome addition in Dexter Fletcher’s Rocketman about the life of Sir Elton John. Critics had high hopes for the film featuring the exhilarating Taron Egerton (Kingsman series, Robin Hood, Eddie The Eagle), and its shock approach entailing all the sex, drugs, and rock and roll lifestyle of the star is only surpassed by its creative elements and the captivating portrayals of the cast.
It was obvious that Egerton took the time to study the role and effectively fill John’s shoes as a kid and as an adult. John is portrayed as a rather introverted character early in the film, slowly morphing into this flamboyant artist onstage to escape his own demons. Fletcher’s risk to let Egerton sing the songs rather than resort to lip-syncing paid off, especially during scenes where he had to perform and dance, as viewers are given more reality than simply letting them rely on their imagination. The decision was somewhat of a surprise to audiences after Fletcher allowed Rami Malek to do the opposite in Bohemian Rhapsody, which he co-directed after original director Bryan Singer had quit the production.
Fletcher’s vision of a musical ride filled with gaudy visuals and choreography was in total harmony with Egerton’s performance. From the elaborate costumes (one shows John as a devil seeking therapy), to hallucinatory flashbacks that give us the other side of the star only a few know about, Fletcher succeeds in presenting the character’s emotional hang-ups and insecurities in life through grand sights and sounds. Screenwriter Lee Hall has also effectively woven John’s story by using true events as segues to the real story, as how he used rehab as the portal that brings us back to John’s childhood.
Bryce Dallas Howard and Steven Mackintosh as John’s parents were also exceptional, providing the right amount of trauma to establish John’s feelings of neglect and lack of love, and eventually turning him to the piano for comfort and his lifetime collaboration with Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell). In one scene that will surely tug at the heartstrings, John lays down his impromptu arrangement for Taupin’s “Your Song”. The intimate off-stage scene gives audiences more room to process relationships between John and Taupin, and with the other people in his life, as opposed to confining entertainment numbers onstage.
Rocketman presents a catalogue of John’s greatest hits (Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Tiny Dancer, Rocketman, Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word, etc.), strategically placing each one on the script to present the singer’s true identities off and onstage. With John and husband David Furnish having control of the production, nothing is concealed and we get a perfect account of John’s mishaps and triumphs and his rudeness to those around him and to himself. What results is the complete, yet sometimes disturbing truth, which we can only deem, in its entirety, as beautiful.